On Expectations and Metrics

By Martin Klubeck

Using “targets” and “stretch goals” for analyzing your performance metrics is not only outdated, it’s a bad idea.

Not everyone agrees with me, though. For the past five years, in numerous online discussion groups I have offered the concept of “expectations” as a replacement for the more traditional (some would say “time-tested”) targets and stretch goals. I have also presented the concept in seminars and presentations on metrics, and it has met with decidedly mixed reviews. When I propose the use of expectations to performance measurement and performance management experts, I generally receive cautious rebuttal. The idea of not driving behavior through the careful collection, analysis, and reporting of data goes against the accepted paradigm. In contrast, many others support the concept of expectations and are ready to drop targets and stretch goals. The make-up of these two groups is telling: those who believe metrics should be used to manage behavior, and those who believe they should be used to provide insights to improvement.

Perhaps I should start at the beginning. What are “stretch goals,” “targets,” and “expectations” and what impact do they have on applying metrics in your organization?

Visit: http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/expectations-and-metrics

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  1. Karl J. Kinkead, PhD
    July 7, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    Having been a strong proponent of goals, objectives, and targets for years in business, it took me a couple of times reading through this article to get past my well entrenched biases, prejudices, and predispositions regarding the use of objective based goals. Moving towards more subjective “expectations” seems to be a process that is heavily laden with “subjective stumbling blocks.” I begin, but only begin, to see how the use of “Expectations” could be considerably less threatening and potentially more advantageous to stakeholders including employees, vendors, and consumers, but am having difficulty understanding how an organization comes to develop service expectation levels on a modicum of objective basis. I have frequently found that customers vary widely in their expectations of service levels and, as such, confuse the provider with varying levels of demand for service. Employees typically have a vested interest in moderating service level expectations. Management invariably wants to set expectation levels for service at levels that can, and often are, discouraging during the initial phase of improving service levels. I keep coming back to goals and objectives being quantitative and as such more easily definable and subsequently, more easily understood. If the individual(s) developing the goals and objectives are realistic, they continue to be my “go-to” method of improvement. In summary, as an executive in a large multinational corporation and an adjunct professor, I would much rather be judged on objective data than on a subjective, possibly arbitrary, “Expectation.”

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